Analytics super nova


9 February 2015

According to a new report from Research and Markets, the market for analytics delivered as a service from the cloud could reach an annual growth rate of 46%.

This boom may come as no surprise to many, and indeed, another analyst, Ray Wang, founder of Constellation Research, is cited as saying that adoption rate could be much higher.

The usual suspects are cited as the purveyors of the technology, namely HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP, with Amazon and getting a mention too.

The promise of deep analytics, with sometimes real-time intelligence being produced, have been cited in many reports on this, and indeed in our own coverage here, with some superb examples of data being turned into usable intelligence.

But, and you could hear that one coming, if the power of analytics is so great, why hasn’t there been a Lance Armstrong?

Let me explain.

In sport, when a good athlete who has trained well, performed well and perhaps matured in their chosen discipline suddenly starts to excel beyond previous form and achieves what many may have thought beyond them, one immediately thinks of one thing — drugs. Or at least I do, and I am willing to admit that I am a cynical old goat.

I think of analytics in the same way as I think of performance enhancing drugs in sport — analytics has the power to give an unfair advantage to a business, if used wisely.

So, why have we not seen companies make a quantum leap with the help of analytics?

Nowhere have I seen a company transform itself and what it is doing to the extent where business watchers have smelled a rat, implied witchcraft or suggested that analytics was to blame.

In fact, if anything it seems that there have been more and more commentators questioning the value of analytics.

One academic, Michael Schrage, research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Centre for Digital Business, questioned whether the Big Data bubble was about to implode as Tesco’s woes piled up, alleviated in no way all by its data mastery.

Now, at the time I disagreed with Mr Shrage, and haven’t really changed my mind, but I would still have expected, by now, for some company, somewhere, to have made a great leap, based on the shrewd application of analytics to their business, due to the ubiquity of the tools and technology and the ability to transform business models quickly due to the agility bestowed by modern hybrid architectures.

Wild speculation
So, let’s indulge in some wild speculation here: either the promise of analytics has been wildly overstated, it hasn’t and some organisations are sandbagging, or organisations are still doing it wrong and are more focused on making infographics than transforming their organisations.

Right, let’s look at each of those individually.

Either the promise of analytics has been wildly overstated, it hasn’t and some organisations are sandbagging, or organisations are still doing it wrong and are more focused on making infographics than transforming their organisations

The last one is probably the easiest to deal with as it is, to a certain extent, undoubtedly true. Organisations probably are still doing it wrong, not being ambitious enough or not asking the right questions of the data. Data and business analysts need to be able to ask the intelligent questions to get the miraculous answers. Those questions are often as individual as the organisations themselves and is one area where the technology can only do so much.

The idea of sandbagging is perhaps a bit thornier.

If you suddenly have a competitive advantage over your nearest rivals, waiting until you are sure you can best exploit it is probably a sound strategy, but just how long are companies waiting? By now, bearing in mind that these technologies have been around for a while, one would have expected (all right then, I would have expected) some super nova event to have fired some company in the firmament of success in their given field. Why haven’t we seen one of these leaps?

If a company has achieved all of this and has obfuscated to avoid giving away their advantage, then there must be another Alan Turing out there somewhere, making very complex strategic manoeuvres to keep it all dark — this is a fairly slim possibility.

This all leads us back to the analytics are not all they are cracked up to be.

I’m still not convinced by this. All of the advantages are still as valid as when we first heard them and there are some companies who have made incremental changes based on their results and improved their businesses as a result — just no super novae.

A bit stiff
Is agility perhaps the problem? Are the insights from analytics so radical for some companies that they find their processes, internal structures and technologies are too rigid to implement the kind of transformational change necessary to take full advantage? This is again, to some extent, undoubtedly true, but how long will it take?

I don’t necessarily agree that companies are too filled with FUD to implement change based on the insights being derived, but there may be a degree of scepticism that is gumming up the works too.

I don’t know, maybe my impression is a further manifestation of my general dissatisfaction with the world of technology that has, in this the year of Marty McFly’s future journey, failed to deliver on flying cars, hoverboards, or indeed, any personal flying technology that can be deployed in a utilitarian manner. All we have is Segways — god, that’s depressing.




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